BBCI files legal proceedings against Govt takeover of Berbice Bridge

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The Berbice Bridge Company Incorporated (BBCI) has taken steps aimed at retaking the operations of the bridge, by mounting a legal challenge in the High Court. The company said both Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson and Attorney General Basil Williams have been served with legal notice.

According to Berbice Bridge Company, its application is set to come up for hearing on the December 5, at 15:00h or soon after that time as the motion will be heard in the High Court before Justice Gino Persaud.

Last month, BBCI announced new toll with increases, which it says is important to offset operational costs of the bridge.

Government had called the toll hike burdensome and draconian and eventually, Public Infrastructure Minister, on November 5 last, issued an order under the Berbice River Bridge Act Cap 51:06 declaring that Government will take over the maintenance and operation of the Berbice Bridge until such date that the Minister specifies there is a “cessation of threat to public safety.”

As such, the Bridge Company is seeking an order of certiorari quashing paragraph 2 of the Berbice River Bridge (Public Safety) Toll Order 2018 dated the 11 November 1, 2018, No. 42 of 2018, made by the Minister under the Berbice River Bridge Act Cap 51:06.

The Bridge Company is also wants orders to prohibit Government as well as its agents from maintaining and operating the Berbice River Bridge.

Furthermore, the BBCI is seeking an order of certiorari to quash the Minister’s order that tolls  levied  and collected  and exempted shall remain the same and not be increased.

It is asking the court for orders to reverse the cancellation of the increases as well as to declare that Minister Patterson has no power under the Berbice River Bridge Act, or otherwise, to approve or reject an increase in tolls by the claimant.

The bridge company also wants the court to declare that the Minister’s Berbice River Bridge (Public Safety) Toll Order is ultra vires sections 4 and 12 of the Berbice River Bridge Act and is “also unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect in that it is tantamount to the compulsory taking of possession or compulsorily acquiring an interest in or right over the Berbice River Bridge, which is owned by the BBCI without prompt  and adequate compensation in violation of article 142(1) of the Constitution of Guyana.”

Observers had criticised the move by the incumbent Administration to take control of the Berbice River Bridge in an apparent effort to nationalise the structure.

This was as the BBCI was seeking an agreement to extend the contract period to 40 years.

A move that would have made it unnecessary to implement the toll increases the company announced on October 16, 2018.

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